Sep. 23—ROCHESTER — Democrat Andy Smith and Republican John Robinson, both first-time candidates for the Minnesota Legislature, offered different prescriptions and solutions for challenges the state faces during a debate held at the Rochester Public Library.
Smith, owner of Gray Duck Theater, and Robinson, a consulting firm owner, are running to represent House District 25B that covers much of Rochester. The candidates differed on how to solve a work shortage problem, handle a $9 billion state surplus, ensure public confidence in elections and reduce the spate of gun violence.
Here are three answers the candidates gave Thursday during the forum sponsored by the Rochester chapter of the Minnesota League of Women voters.
Question: If elected, what will you do to improve election integrity and voter confidence in Minnesota?
Smith: First, we do have strong and secure elections here in Minnesota and in the U.S. We've had several recounts over the past decade that have shown that we are incredibly accurate with our vote-counting both electronic and mail-in balloting. I think we need to talk about what our values are in voting. And as Americans, our values are that more people should vote. We should want the most people to vote and have their voices heard. And so I'm actively against any sort of provision that limits people being able to vote.
Robinson: With election integrity, there's a lot of individuals that really desire to make sure that their vote is heard. There have been questions brought up from the other side with regards to worries about suppression. I think we need to go ahead and bring those forward, talk to some of the leaders of those particular groups and see if we can find a way around those, so that we can solidify the system and make sure that our system is as strong as possible.
Question: Whoever wins will be a first-term state representative. You likely won't have a lot of power. But if you had a magic wand, what would be the first bill you would seek to pass?
Smith: My first bill would be to pass the Minnesota Health Plan into law. It is a single-payer health system for Minnesota where everyone would be given access to health care and to the provider they want. There would be no more co-pays, no more excessive penalties. In our health care system, we wouldn't be under insurance companies that run based on profit rather than on the health of their people. It would close a lot of the loopholes we currently have in our very broken health care system. And it would alleviate a ton of stress on small businesses like my business that want to have people work full-time.
Robinson: One of my major concerns is inflation, which some people have said, "Well, that's not inflation." Whether it's inflation or whether it's greed, the solution to a degree is more companies competing and bringing the price down. And I think the way to do that is to bring our taxes closer to what you see across the country so that we can get more businesses to start up. And as our economy grows, we will have the resources necessary to take a look at other ways of bringing services to Minnesota.
Question: What priorities do you have for the $9 billion surplus? How would you work with others to allocate those funds?
Robinson: Specifically, we need to cut taxes on Social Security. Beyond this, I want to see overall taxes come down so that we can try and get our economy going. There are plenty of things that we need to start making, specifically with regards to the semiconductor industry, trying to bring our supply chain here, so that we can maintain security at home, both national security and job security.
Smith: The surplus is an opportunity. And I think it's an exciting opportunity. Government is the ability to achieve and protect things together that we can't do on an individual basis. I mentioned the Minnesota Health Plan. I think that would be massive, helping people now. If you look at your pay stub and and look at how much money is taken out for for-profit health care insurance, it's anywhere from 10% to 40% of your paycheck. Imagine if that was going into your pocket. Other than that, we can have better roads, we can create a better infrastructure so that we are ready for the green revolution.